Ullscarf

Date: 2 Oct 2019 Weather: 9C, sunny, light wind
Height gain: 1,818 ft Distance: 7.4 miles
Time taken: 5 hours Wainwrights: 99 of 214

Route:  From Dob Gill car park up through the wood past Harrop Tarn through gate onto hillside then turning left before reaching Blea Tarn towards Standing Crag with a left turn at the fence post for the final short walk to the summit.  Back the same way until the wood where we used the forest track to the left reaching the road at Hause Gill and walking along the road back to the car park.


The weather didn’t live up to its forecast on Monday with hill fog giving us no views from Tarn Crag.  It rained as promised all day on Tuesday.  We were promised wall to wall sunshine for Wednesday which had seemed unlikely but on opening the curtains we found it had lived up to expectations.

We wanted to make the most of the great visibility and toyed with Great Gable or the Skiddaw ridge but decided we didn’t quite have the energy so decided to tackle Ullscarf and complete our first book on round two – it’s the last one we have left in book three, the Central Fells.

We set off relatively late but as expected the Dob Gill car park is deserted when we arrive at 11am – just one other car parked up.  The loos are open – good news – and even better while the car park meter is back in full operation for some reason it refunds most of our £7 after dispensing our ticket – thank you United Utilities.

We boot up and set off through an enormous new gate, following the arrow pointing left for the footpath through the wood.  The path almost immediately disappears so we come back and find the clear path of slabbed stone we would have taken had it not been for the sign – what’s going on there?

The path is initially up through woodland and is very steep.  It’s well marked but the stones are quite wet and I don’t relish coming back this way later.  Only 350ft of steep ascent brings us to Harrop Tarn – not the prettiest tarn but nice to be in the open on a wide track for a short section.  I reach for my camera and realise that I’ve left it in the car – how irritating.  I borrow S’s phone for the day but the camera function isn’t great, so here’s a slightly blurry Harrop Tarn:

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After a few hundred metres on the track we’re back into woodland and the steep wet stony path.  Another 350ft of ascent brings us to a gate and onto open hillside.  The route takes us straight on until we reach a fence 400ft above us.  The hillside is wet and boggy in places and S isn’t happy – his least favourite sort of terrain and he has wet feet which are getting cold.

It is beautiful out here, though, and I hope that S agrees to carry on.  We can now see the Helvellyn range behind us to the east:

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We trudge on and S doesn’t call time on our walk and even reluctantly agrees that this is a little better than the wood.  We reach the fence which is our cue to turn left and head for Standing Crag.  I look back at the path as we start heading towards the crag:

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It’s even boggier now and we reach a section which is just water so we hop over the fence and pick up a path on the other side, soon reaching a gate beyond the wetter stuff to come back to our original side.  We realise on our descent that we should have crossed the fence when we turned, but when I peered over the gate I couldn’t see a path on that side.  Oh well, we didn’t sink and mostly found a path we could follow.

We reach the foot of Standing Crag and start our ascent – the route is clear and although steep it’s less wet underfoot so a bit of an improvement.  We see a fell runner taking a route to our right – again we find on our descent that we went slightly off-piste at the top of Standing Crag, but again we survive the detour.  We don’t see the fell runner again – wonder where he went?

We reach the top of the crag and look back – where did that tarn come from?

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It’s Blea Tarn looking lovely in the sunshine – we’d nearly walked to it before turning at the fence but hadn’t seen it at all.

We turn around again and carry on plodding upwards in the wet and boggy grass following the fence line.  It seems to go on and on …. 500ft to go, 400ft, 300ft, 200ft and still the ground keeps going upwards towards a remaining metal fencepost that is the signal to turn left and strike out across the hillside to the top of Ullscarf which we can now see ahead of us.  It’s not far – barely a quarter of a mile – but it still feels like we’re never going to get there.

But finally we do:

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The wide flat top isn’t all that exciting and in fact its wideness does reduce the views of all the stunning mountains around us – Ullscarf is often credited with being the most central lake district mountain so the views, while excellent, especially to the west, should be even more stunning.

AW says that the top is “a cheerless place, even in sunshine” – the views to the west are certainly not cheerless but we do feel cheerless when we reach the top after what seems like a near endless three and quarter miles of boggy walking on almost relentlessly stiff gradients.

We quickly take off rucksacks and put on waterproofs, hats and gloves – it’s cold up here with a little more wind than on the way up – a first trip out for the winter waterproofs this season and definitely the right choice for today.

We find some rocks just away from the summit where we can look to the west and admire the crystal clear views as we have our lunch.  I can’t take my eyes off Great Gable and his impressive friends:

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Great Gable is the dome in the centre of the picture then left to Glaramara in foreground then Lingmell, Great End and Scafell Pike at the end.  To the right of Great Gable is Green Gable, Kirk Fell, Red Pike, Scoat Fell and then Pillar.

And carrying on round to the north we can see the distinctive shapes of Grasmoor, Eel Crag, Hopegill Head and Grisedale Pike from the centre to the right here:

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We sit for a while munching our much needed pasties and looking from one end to the other of this glorious stretch of mountains over and over again.  We’re starting to get cold, though, and are being divebombed by lots of little flies, so we pack up our stuff and start to head back down.

As we get back to the fencepost and the first right-hand turn we take photos of the good views down to Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite with Skiddaw towering to their right:

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We make what feels like much quicker progress on the way down, correcting our little route errors as we go – and finding better paths for the most part.  The scenery is lovely up here in the beautiful weather and Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike and Helvellyn are in full view in front of us:

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As we get to the wood again S wants to try and find the forest track we saw signposted just before we reached the gate on the way up – it takes us a little way past the car park but should be much quicker for us than 700ft of descent on steep and slippery stones.

We take the left hand turn at the sign-post but can’t see any path beyond a huge fallen tree which has a trunk and four major branches blocking the way.  We take a few minutes to negotiate our way under or over each one of the obstacles, collecting lichen and mud as we go.  Once past the tree the forest path becomes obvious ahead of us.  It’s wide with a shallow gradient and much quicker and easier for us than the steep path would have been.

We also start to get great views down the Thirlmere as we descend:

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We reach the road and have a three quarter of a mile walk along it back to the car park – well worth the detour for such an easy and relaxed descent, especially as it’s a very quiet road with only the odd cyclist to worry about.

So – Central Fells completed and number 99 out of 214 on our second round.  The weather was fantastic, the descent quite enjoyable but I think the idea of that seemingly endless ascent to a less than inspiring summit might mean this is our last visit to Ullscarf even if it does rules out an attempt at a third full round in the future.